Why being a model isn’t as glamorous as it seems

beth
Image by Daniel Stark

Two years ago, I met a young model Bethany Dawn Watson for the first time, and she was striking in every way a model should be, and no doubt made an impression on everyone she met.

Today, nothing has changed. As I wind my way through the busy café to meet the now young woman, for the second time, she is just as striking as I remember. Her long sunny blonde hair and icy blue eyes standing out in the sea of faces surrounding her.

Moving closer, I see she’s pulling off the ‘just-rolled-out-of-bed’ look impeccably, in a pair of dark denim Joni jeans, plan white oversized Tee and a pair of beat up black Converse.

“It’s so lovely to see you again,” she said warmly, as I approached the table and took a seat opposite her. “I’ve only just got here and I wasn’t sure what you wanted to drink, so I just ordered a pot of tea because everyone likes tea.” She laughed, and she was right. Instantly, she showered me with the warm friendliness I remembered so well.

As I poured us both our first brew, Beth recapped the story she told be two years ago of how she was first scouted in 2011, aged just 14, and again in 2012 at the Metro Centre; both times being for the annual Elite Model Bootcamp.

“The first time I didn’t really think much of it, but when I got scouted again the second year, I thought that there must be something other people see in me that I don’t,” explains Beth, sitting opposite me taking her first sip of tea.

Despite being scouted twice, Beth never made the finals of the competition which gave her an insight to how tough the industry really is. She explains: “I’d been down to London for the competition and even though I didn’t get through, it just seemed like such an amazing world, so glamorous and fun. Getting your hair and make-up done, dressing up and posing in front of a camera is every 17-year-old girl’s dream. When Elite said I wasn’t quite ready for their agency at that time, I decided to join Tyne Tees Models as a starting point.”

She goes on: “At first it was really fun, my first job was for a clothing company called 9th Willow in Middlesbrough and I really enjoyed it. But because I was still in college at the time, I had to turn down quite a few jobs because I couldn’t take time out of education. I’m not sure if that gave me a ‘bad reputation’ or something, but after a few months I stopped getting as many jobs.”

Just then, a young waitress appears at our corner table and asks if we would like anything else to order. Beth flashed her perfect Hollywood smile at the petite brunette and said: “Actually, I would love some fudge cake if you have any please,” and then directed at me “it’s my absolute favourite, I just can’t resist.”

Then she pursed her full lips and gave a look as if to say ‘what was I saying’, and then continued: “Anyway, so that year I concentrated on my A levels and decided to pursue modelling once I was out of education. I still got jobs but it was getting harder to balance everything.”

Beth parted ways with her first agency Tyne Tees in the midst of her A Levels to concentrate on her education, she explains how she knew how important it was to maintain good grades as a ‘back up’ as she knew she couldn’t reply on modelling as a career.

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Image by Daniel Stark

“Once I finished my A Levels, I put myself out there and really tried to make my modelling career work. I moved down to London because there’s so many more opportunities there – it’s one of the fashion capitals of the world.”

She looks sad now, as she describes what the industry is actually like, and how it takes its toll on young women such as herself: “I think I was a little naïve to think it was going to be easy. I knew realistically I wouldn’t be the next Cara or Kate, because they really are one in a million, but I didn’t think it would be so hard to get work because agencies had expressed such an interest in me.

“I felt like all I was getting were rejections, and I was in this huge city on my own and I felt totally lost. I could have 11 or 12 castings in one day, every day of the week and not get one job. It was so hard and I was constantly tired from running from casting to casting. I was the cliché model who was surviving on chewing gum and coffee.”

“The agencies and clients are really strict on how you look, if you put weight on they’ll tell you to lose it. Luckily I was never in that position, but I knew that I stayed that I probably would be eventually.”

Beth then picked up her fork and took a small bite of her chocolate fudge cake which had just arrived. How ironic I thought, and then she continued: “I got a shock at how tall and thin the girls were who surrounded me, it just didn’t look healthy, or nice, they looked poorly and I literally wanted to feed them come cake.

“That’s when I realised a career in modelling just wasn’t for me. As much as I enjoyed the photo-shoots and the idea of it, I didn’t want to end up looking like a clone walking down a runway.”

She explains how she moved back up North after making her decision to stop modelling: “I still model occasionally, but more for favours for friends. I enjoy doing it but as a hobby rather than a career, that way I don’t have to worry so much about what I look like and I can just relax and have fun.”

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Image by Daniel Stark

Photographer Daniel Stark has worked with Beth numerous times and only has positive things to say about her: “Beth is an amazing model, she’s one of my favourite models to work with and she always shoots amazing pictures.

“I’ve known Beth since her first photo-shoot and warned her that the industry is not all as it seems, but I saw how she was in front of the camera and thought she could make it.

“I think she’s such a lovely, kind-hearted and genuine person that the model industry just wasn’t for her. You have to be tough and ruthless to get ahead in this industry and I think she’s too nice for that.

“I still work with her, but as friends. It’s really relaxed when we shoot and it’s more like two friends having a catch up, it’s just a bonus that I always get beautiful pictures of her.”

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Image by Daniel Stark

Whatever the future holds for Beth, it will no doubt be a successful one. She radiates positive energy and exudes a mature confidence for someone so young.

Smiling again, she finishes her journey on a positive note: “I’m working towards getting a job in engineering. I’ve always been interesting in physics,” something I remembered her mention last time, “and now my dream is to work for the Red Bull F1 team. I’m just finding my feet again, but I have a good set of grades to get me where I want to be and I’m surrounded by my family and friends. I couldn’t be happier!”

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